Recently, Kate Middleton undertook a rare public collaboration with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall which highlighted a contrast between her relationship with her step-mother-in-law and the one she shares with sister-in-law, Meghan Markle. It was revealed on Tuesday that Kate and Camilla took part in an intimate photography session at the latter’s country retreat ahead of her 75th birthday with Kate behind the camera capturing an official portrait.
This collaboration comes as royal watchers have been commenting on the apparent closeness between Kate, Prince William, Camilla and Prince Charles, suggesting that Charles and Camilla have replaced Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to form a new “fab four.” Speaking to GB News host Eamonn Holmes, royal author and commentator, Katie Nicholl said of Kate and Camilla:
“They are very close. We were sitting here talking about the ‘fab four’ last time and of course that was Harry and Meghan and William and Kate, now I think we talk about a very different ‘fab four’ and we’re talking about Charles and Camilla and William and Kate.”
With Kate and Meghan not appearing to interact with one another in public during Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June, during what was Meghan’s first public return to the U.K since stepping down as a full-time working royal in 2020 and the broadcast of her interview with Oprah Winfrey, speculation has grown as to whether the pair will come back together. Kate’s relationship with Camilla, being reportedly close, has developed over a number of years.
As a wedding present in 2011, Camilla gave her step-daughter-in-law a touching present of a gold link bracelet with a single gold charm. On one side is the ‘C’ surmounted by a coronet belonging to Kate, and on the other side is the ‘C’ surmounted by a coronet belonging to Camilla. Kate has worn this bracelet on a number of public occasions alluding to a fondness for her step-mother-in-law.
Though the pair have rarely commented on one another publicly, they have been seen to greet each other warmly at royal events with Kate undertaking a solo engagement with Camilla and Charles in February. In March 2022, Kate came together to collaborate with Camilla on her project The Reading Room. Camilla began this initiative during the COVID-19 pandemic and asked Kate to contribute a list of children’s books that she could recommend to parents.
It was in compiling her list that Kate was accused of missing an opportunity to extend an olive branch to Meghan by not including her children’s book The Bench which was released in June the previous year. Despite Camilla and Kate knowing each other for nearly two decades, the latest collaboration for Camilla’s birthday portrait is the most intimate public project undertaken by the pair.
The relationship between Kate and Meghan has been widely reported on since 2016, with the apparent “royal rift” which exists between William and Harry also reported to exist between their wives. In the biography of Harry and Meghan written by Carolyn Durad and Omid Scobie titled Finding Freedom, the pair recount that Kate’s first meeting with Meghan came after she had been introduced to other members of the family and though not unfriendly, was not overly warm.
“Kate had seemingly not shown much interest in finding out who this woman was who had made her brother-in-law so happy,” they write. When the future sisters-in-law were first introduced in January 2017, Durand and Scobie reported that the meeting ended with Kate offering a friendly olive branch:
“The meeting ended with Kate letting Meghan know that she was always welcome to contact her if she needed anything,” they wrote. “Having been through the experience of being a royal girlfriend herself, Kate knew how trying it could be to suddenly have one’s personal life laid bare.” Despite this, the relationship between Kate and Meghan did not appear to build into a friendship.
When six months after Harry and Meghan’s wedding a story was broken in the press that Meghan had made Kate cry, it deepened the public perception of tensions in their relationship. Speaking to Oprah Winfrey in 2021, Meghan said that contrary to the reports, it was in fact Kate who made her cry and the reluctance from the royal to clear up the story in public was disappointing.
“The reverse happened,” she said, later adding that: “A few days before the wedding, she was upset about something pertaining — yes, the issue was correct — about flower-girl dresses, and it made me cry, and it really hurt my feelings. “And I thought, in the context of everything else that was going on in those days leading to the wedding, that it didn’t make sense to not be just doing whatever everyone else was doing, which was trying to be supportive, knowing what was going on with my dad and whatnot.”
When later asked by Winfrey about her relationship with Kate and whether photographs of the two sisters-in-law seemingly enjoying each other’s company at Wimbledon were just as they seemed, Meghan provided an insight into the dynamic between the two: “When you say, ‘Was it what it looked like?’, my understanding and my experience of the past four years is it’s nothing like what it looks like,” she said.
Beyond joint visits to Wimbledon, Kate and Meghan did not collaborate on any joint ventures in the way that the former has now done with step-mother-in-law, Camilla.
There are currently no public plans for Meghan or Harry to return to the U.K though in a recent interview with the Today show, Harry stated his desire to take his children to Britain to build a relationship with their great-grandmother, the queen.